Vacation rental is a term in the travel industry meaning renting out a furnished apartment or house on a temporary basis to tourists as an alternative to a hotel. Vacation rentals have long been a popular travel option in Europe (especially in the UK) as well as in Canada and are becoming increasingly popular across the world. They are often referred to as self-catering rentals or villa rentals. In some cities, like Barcelona, local authorities determined that vacation rentals were becoming a threat to the hotel industry and passed some legislation placing regulations and limits on the industry, while in others, such as England, Ireland, France and Spain, the government promotes and certifies holiday rentals, even offering its own program of holiday/vacation rentals.
A vacation rental is a fully furnished property, such as a condominium, townhome or single-family-style home, often referred to as villa rentals in Europe. The client/traveler arranges to rent the vacation rental property for a designated period of time, many rent on nightly basis similar to hotel rooms, although the more prevalent vacation rental industry practice is typically weekly rentals. A true vacation rental is not for sale to the guest; rather, the owner of the vacation rental merely allows the guest to rent the property for a predetermined length of time.
A timeshare is a piece of real estate—often a fully furnished condominium—that is jointly shared by multiple owners. While different types of timeshare ownerships exist, in general, each owner bears a portion of the responsibility, along with the right to a segment of time in which he or she is granted sole use of the property. Timeshare resorts allow financially qualified guests to rent and tour their unowned properties and then make those properties available to the guest for purchase. Timeshare owners can also choose to bank their week with and exchange company such as RCI, or rent the unit
Although lower rents for vacation rentals by owner were once the norm, this is not always the primary benefit. Quite often a vacation rental will feature more amenities and features, such as more space, fully-equipped kitchens, sports and beach equipment, games, DVD libraries, books, etc. Owners managing their own properties tend to be more aware of wear and tear and have better cash flow to use to maintain and upgrade the property. Perhaps the primary difference is that vacation rentals tend to offer more space and the advantage of sampling what life in one's destination is truly like for the locals.
The benefits generally outweigh the potential negatives, with many vacation rentals offering more space (multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, separate living areas), more amenities (fully equipped kitchens, fireplaces, private hot tubs), convenient locations (on the beach, ski-in/ski-out, city centers in real neighborhoods) and greater privacy than a hotel, including the fact that many villa/vacation rentals give travelers the option of inhabiting real neighborhoods in their destination and living like the locals. As of 2006, vacation rental management has become a $10 billion industry and continues to become more popular.
Vacation rentals can range from budget studio apartments to lavish, expensive private villas in the world's most desirable locations, some with pricetags of many thousands per night and all the amenities you would find in any luxury accommodation (fully staffed, private beaches, boats, chefs, cooking lessons, etc) to cater to the guests.
Vacation rentals are available in most states of the US and very prevalent in major tourist areas such as Hawaii, California, and Florida. The vacation rental market is much larger in Europe than it is in the United States as it has long been a common travel option for European travellers.
The largest vacation rental property management company in the United States represents nearly 17,000 vacation rental properties and there are many such specialty agencies throughout the world. Guests who book through vacation rental management companies may experience benefits including quality control, housekeeping services, professional reservations agents and on-site or on-call staff.
Many such companies are members of the Vacation Rental Managers Association and there are additionally many rental property management companies that deal only with vacation rental brokers/agencies that specialize in the villa/vacation rental industry.
A vacation rental may not be booked directly with a listing service. Because each property owner has his or her own deposit and payment requirements, cancellation policies, key-pick-up procedures, etc., a guest must contact the property owner or owner’s agent directly in order to book.
A guest who books through a listing service or direct from owner may experience the benefit of lower rental rates.